Looking at renewable power transmission line difficulties

Renewable energy developers are worried that transmission facilities are not keeping pace with power generation even as 12,000 MW of solar projects under construction and another 7,000 MW of wind projects have been bid out since wind auctions began in February 2017. Developers expressed fear that completed projects might not be able to start functioning because all ‘bays’ at the nearest substations are already occupied and transmission lines already carrying their full capacity.

Transmission Woes

The main reason is that so far there has been no coordination between ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE), Power Grid Corporation of India (PGCIL) and Central Electricity Authority (CEA). Solar Corporation of India (SECI), which is under MNRE, has been holding auctions for both wind and solar projects without making sure that enough evacuation facilities are available. The problem is most acute in Gujarat where, over 2,000 MW of wind projects are being built, but substations can only accommodate 400 MW.

The solution lies in building more substations and transmission lines, but the process will take much longer than the time the currently under-construction projects take to get completed. With the private sector having been allowed into this segment, auctions will have to be held for the construction of substations, with PGCIL competing against private players as getting the substations actually built will take at least three years.

Solar projects have to be ready in 18 months or less, according to the power purchase agreements (PPAs) signed. Some developers suggested doing away with the bidding through a government ordinance and assigning the task entirely to PGCIL, which, if it starts work immediately, could have the substations ready earlier. However, PGCIL builds substations and transmission lines only for inter-state links, while state transmission units (STUs) are responsible for intra-state ones, and these too will need to work on a war footing to meet the requirements of new projects.

I strongly feel the Implementation of the green energy corridor project, meant specifically to connect renewable energy plants to the national grid, needs to be speeded up. In 2017-18, 350 circuit km of transmission lines were installed under the green energy corridor project, with 1,900 circuit km targeted in 2018-19. However, the parliamentary standing committee on energy has recently pointed out that, given the target, the budget allocation of Rs 6 billion for 2018-19 is far too low.

Even though the electricity sector in India is growing at rapid pace. During the current year 2017-18 (Upto 30.11.2017), the Peak Demand is about 164.1 GW and the Installed Capacity is 330.8 GW with generation mix of Thermal (66.2%), Hydro (13.6%), Renewable 18.2%) and Nuclear (2.0%). The natural resources for electricity generation in India are unevenly dispersed and concentrated in a few pockets. Most of the Hydro resources are located in the Himalayan foothills, North Eastern Region (NER).  Coal reserves are concentrated in Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, parts of Madhya Pradesh, whereas lignite is located in Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. Also lot of power station, generating from Gas and renewable energy sources like Solar, Wind etc. have been installed across all directions at various parts of country.

It is time that Power-grid Corporation of India Limited (POWERGRID), Central Transmission Utilities (CTU), which plans inter-state transmission system (ISTS) and State Transmission Utilities (STU) (namely State Transco/ SEBs) take complete responsibility for the development of Intra -State Transmission System.

SANJITH S. SHETTY

 

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